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A China Southern 737MAX being towed while in storage at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

China’s Tianfu Airport is a Step Closer to Launch

Chengdu Tianfu International Airport is a step closer to launch after conducting its first test flight. Sichuan’s government said the brand-new airport is expected to launch before June 30.  The second airport test will be held in March. China’s government has spent four years completing phase one of construction.

Six Chinese airlines have brought their signature aircraft to participate in airport tests. Air China’s Boeing 747-8, China Southern Airlines’ Airbus A380, China Eastern Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER, Lucky Air’s Boeing 737, Sichuan Airlines’ Airbus A330 and Chengdu Airlines’ Comac ARJ21 have landed at the airport respectively.

Chengdu will become China’s third city to own two international airports following Beijing and Shanghai. Tianfu Airport is located 50 kilometers southeast of Chengdu. It has six runways and four terminals with a design capacity to accept 90 million passengers each year. The first phase of the airport construction included three runways and two terminals which covered 600,000 square meters. The airport is expected to serve 40 million passengers by 2025.

Airlines are gearing up for service at Tianfu. Air China has spent $941 million for a base at the airport. It expects double capacity at the airport in five years by adding 150 aircraft. China Eastern Airlines is going to switch its service to Tianfu. Lucky Air, a Kunming-based carrier, will select Tianfu Airport as its hub.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and located at southwest of the country, owns Shuangliu Airport, the second-busiest airport in China last year behind Guangzhou’s Baiyun; in response to the international travel restrictions, the passenger volume of Beijing and Shanghai airports have dropped significantly. Before the pandemic, Shuangliu’s annual passenger capacity was over 50 million.

Tianfu Airport is expected to provide international services out of Chengdu and will expand its route map to Europe, the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia. The services to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and domestic routes will be kept at Shuangliu Airport. The airlines are expected to switch theirs routes to new airport in two years.

Meanwhile, the aviation industry is seeing a growing concern over the competition of the airports in the region. Chongqing, the metropolis close to Chengdu, owns Jiangbei International Airport, with capacity for over 40 million, is expecting a competition with the new airport. Moreover, Chongqing and nearby cities have requested airport expansion projects and new airport applications to meet the future demand.

As a result of the huge domestic demand, the Chinese aviation industry has been growing rapidly in decades. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) has successfully developed its own aircraft as the country keeps expanding its infrastructure facilities – projects such as Beijing Daxing Airport have been launched in 2019. According to Fred Lam, the CEO of Hong Kong International Airport, China has over 130 new airports under construction.


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